Smelling blood, the protesters thronged in greater numbers. Demonstrators against an extradition bill in Hong Kong swelled on June 16 even after the city’s political leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, suspended the controversial legislation. March organizers say nearly 2 million people, young and old, packed the city center demanding the bill’s complete withdrawal and Lam’s resignation. Given that the former British colony’s population is 7 million, it’s hard to imagine a more stinging indictment of Hong Kong’s leadership.
Lam is hanging on, for now. She issued a “most sincere apology,” though it was quickly rejected by demonstrators. They accuse her of jeopardizing Hong Kong’s judicial independence by attempting to fast-track changes to the Basic Law, which introduced effective self-rule for 50 years from the moment in 1997 the British handed over the colony to China under a model dubbed “one country, two systems.” The amendment would have allowed criminals to be extradited to territories including the Chinese mainland, where chances of a fair trial are best summed up by its conviction rate of 99%.
The chief executive is widely seen in Hong Kong as a loyalist to Beijing, and her humbling backpedal will reverberate on the mainland. The sight of millions of Chinese citizens standing tall to reproach the political system that governs the rest of the country will be chastening to President Xi Jinping and his much hyped Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. Xi is paying the price for overreaching, says Jude Blanchette, an analyst at Crumpton Group and author of a new book on China’s resurgent revolutionary ideology. “He’s managed to alienate China and frustrate its forward progress.”
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